This month, breaking the rules, seizing the moment, finding an online mentor and to begin with, getting over the slump.
1: How to conquer a mid-week slump
Many people feel their motivation falter mid-week. Nataly Kogan found that to be the case at her company, Happier. Rather than fighting it she decided to embrace it and schedules a Wednesday afternoon break for a drink, a snack, and some socialising. Now the staff have something to look forward to rather than dread mid-week.
ACTION: If you suffer from this kind of slump, what kind of short break or activity would help you get over it and renew your energy? Why not make it a regular part of your schedule?
2: What are you resisting? Could you embrace it instead?
Scheduling a mid-week break is good example of the fact that sometimes giving in is more effective than fighting. Here are some other ways you can do that with things you may be resisting:
1. If you tend to procrastinate, set a timer for 15 minutes of official procrastination time. Surf the net, check your email, leaf through a magazine, do anything you want - until the timer rings. That's your signal to start. 2. If you find it difficult to resist unhealthy snacks when you're on a get-healthy diet, make a deal with yourself that you'll allow yourself to have the snack - if you still feel like it after you've reviewed your written diet-related goals. Write down the goals and describe your desired outcome as vividly as possible, incorporating as many senses as possible.
3. If you find it difficult to exercise, forget about the gym but identify some places you enjoy going and walk to them. For instance, if you like writing in coffee shops, instead of the nearest one, go to one that will require you to walk a half a mile to get there (and don't take the bus on the way back).
ACTION: What are you resisting? How could embracing it make it easier?
3: Are the "rules" holding you back?
A lot of education at the lower levels is about training us to follow the rules, not just how to behave but also how to think. Often these are implied rather than spelled out (e.g., "There's only one right answer" or "Don't question the questions"). After a while we're not even aware of the rules or that we're following them, it just feels natural...but this also can hold us back from doing anything innovative.
I like this quote from James Schamus, who runs a distribution company: "We stopped playing by the rules a while ago and just started going, what the hell. Everything is falling apart around us, why not just trust our instincts, trust the creativity of the team. And make sure everybody's having fun and working hard, but also know that we're bringing something different out there. That's all. Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win."
ACTION: In what you do or what you'd like to do, what are three (probably unwritten) rules? For instance, in film writing one rule is that the action should advance chronologically. However, by having one story line move forward in time while the other one tells the story backwards, Christopher Nolan came up with the film Memento.
Brainstorm what you could do or create if you broke the three rules of your line of work or even the larger rules of society (note: avoid breaking the ones that land you in prison).
4: Seize the hour (and the five minutes) like this man
Stephen White is a clinical psychologist who has written eighteen thrillers including Dead Time and The Siege. He also happens to have MS.
White says the unpredictable nature of the illness means you don't just have to seize the day, you have to seize the hour: "If you have a good hour, you use it."
Isn't that great advice for those of us lucky enough not to have any such illness? And it doesn't even have to be an hour, we can seize the five minutes.
ACTION: You'll be more likely to make good use of odd bits of free time if you're prepared. Each day, decide what you'd like to work on in any free time that comes up. Maybe it's a writing project, or planning some aspect of your work, or getting more fit, for instance. Be as specific as possible. For example, if it's a writing project maybe the day's task would be to flesh out one of the characters.
You'll find ways to use the opportunities the day gives you. That might mean looking at the other people waiting for a bus and thinking about which of them your protagonist might look like or using your phone to snap a picture of a window display that gives you an idea for improving your home office.
5: Find a model or mentor on the web
We're used to getting factual information using the internet, but you can also find a model (not that kind, although I hear they also are available) or a mentor, without needing to contact them.
If you want to improve your presentations watch some of the outstanding TED presenters (see www.ted.com). View once for enjoyment and then again to analyze their body language, the rhythm of their speech, how they use visuals, how they employ humor, and so on.
If you want to learn how to write better, go to YouTube and watch the author interviews (of course you should also get a copy of my book, Your Creative Writing Masterclass, which features writing advice from the best classic and modern authors, but I wasn't going to mention that...oops, I guess I did. It's available from Amazon or your other favorite book seller).
ACTION: What would you like to do better? Use Google and YouTube to find people who are brilliant at it and read about or watch them. Experiment with applying their methods.
6: And a quote to consider:
"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." – Ralph Waldo Emerson